In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 9, 2020

Virtual Reality Gaming Helps Patients Step Out of Their Own Realities

By In the Loop

Chuck and Nicole Marino's mobile gaming station, Hyperspace Starcade, provided a nice break from reality for kids at Mayo Eugenio Children's Center last month.

When Chuck and Nicole Marino launched a mobile entertainment business last winter, the concept was simple: To make kids (and parents) happy by bringing a high-tech, mobile gaming station right to the curbs and driveways of anyone looking to have a little fun without any of the stress or mess that comes with organizing such things themselves. "Our video game truck is truly an arcade on wheels," Chuck and Nicole write on the Hyperspace Starcade website. "We set up the playing field right in your yard, parking lot or any outdoor area … we can even set up indoors."

They proved that last point one day last month, setting up inside Mayo Eugenio Children's Center in Rochester. "I've been a patient at Mayo Clinic many times myself, and so we're big fans of Mayo — especially the children's hospital," Chuck tells us. He and Nicole thought a little virtual reality might provide kids with a nice break from the reality of hospital life and offered to donate a day of play.

Mary McCoy, who works with Mayo Clinic's Child Life Program in Rochester, was quick to take the Marinos up on their offer. "We're always trying to gear our activities toward something both our younger patients and older patients will enjoy," McCoy tells us. "This was probably one of the most successful teen events we've ever had."

Despite getting off to a chilly start. "Of course it was like zero degrees outside the day of the event, but Chuck and his team were rock stars," McCoy says. "They parked their big truck outside Saint Marys and wheeled in two virtual reality driving stations — a television screen, a steering wheel with pedals and a seat — and the kids could then choose to put on the virtual reality goggles or play the game without the goggles," she tells us. "It was so fun to be able to watch these kids be able to use and enjoy this kind of technology."

Cardiac surgical nurse Ben Irons got in on that fun, accompanying one of his patients to the event. It was "cool" to see the patient "step out of the hospital zone and step back into" his childhood again, Irons says. "My particular patient had been with us for 150 days, and it was just good for me to see that come out of him. He especially enjoyed the racing games — he and his dad had worked on cars together a lot, and so they played the racing games together. I think that helped them forget they were in a hospital for a while."

Which for Irons, McCoy, the Marinos and everyone else involved, was just the idea.

You can learn more about Hyperspace Starcade here. Then be sure to entertain us with your comments below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.


Tags: Ben Irons, Child LIfe Program, Community, Mary McCoy, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital, Staff Stories

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